1. Sevmash to dispose of second Akula nuclear-powered submarine
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The Sevmash shipyard based in Severodvinsk has signed a contract on the disposal of the second Akula strategic nuclear-powered submarine ï¿½ one of the largest subs of Russia, a shipyard source told Itar-Tass on Friday.
Sevmash will finalize disposal of the first Akula sub and start disposal of another in 2005 under the Russian-U.S. Cooperate Threat Reduction Program. ï¿½The submarine will be delivered to the shipyard in spring,ï¿½ the source said.
According to open sources, Akula (Typhoon) heavy strategic nuclear-powered submarines were designed at the Rubin Naval Design Bureau based in St. Petersburg. Sevmash built six submarines of the kind in 1977-89. The submarines are 175 meters long and 22.8 meters wide. They have a displacement of up to 49,000 tonnes. The Akula has a crew of 170. It is armed with 20 ballistic missiles.
1. RUSSIA, SWITZERLAND TO SIGN AGREEMENTS ON FINANCING CHEMICAL WEAPONS ELIMINATION
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Russia and Switzerland are successfully implementing the intergovernmental government on the elimination of Russia's chemical weapons signed in January 2004.
According to Alexander Yakovenko, official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, two additional agreements on the financing of practical projects on the reconstruction of equipment and formation of a sanitary-hygienic control system at the sites of chemical weapons elimination during the forthcoming visit to Moscow by Chief of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Micheline Calmy-Rey on November 25-26.
According to the diplomat, Russian and Swiss law enforcement bodies and services are cooperating in the fight against terrorism, organized crime and legalization of criminal money on the permanent basis.
"Russia and Switzerland are effectively cooperating in the spheres of protection against catastrophes and implementation of joint humanitarian operations. Switzerland has made an important contribution to the assistance to victims of the terrorist act in Beslan. In September 2004, 300,000 Swiss francs were allocated on the medical rehabilitation and supplies of equipment and materials," RIA Novosti's interlocutor noted.
The importance of bilateral interaction in the sphere of banking regulation and control keeps growing with account for the role of Switzerland as an international financial center, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman said. A relevant draft agreement between the Bank of Russia and the Swiss Federal Banking Commission.
A bilateral agreement on the simplification of visa procedures for officials, businessmen and participants inn cultural, scientific, youth and sporting exchanges is being drafted to extend the possibilities of mutual trips, Mr. Yakovenko said. The work on the readmission agreement, which is to form a legal basis for the joint fight against illegal migration, will be completed soon, he added.
Three objects will be opened in Russia possessing one of the world's largest chemical weapons arsenal to eliminate it. The objects will be located in Gorny (Saratov region), Shchuchye (Kurgan region) and Kombarka (Udmurtia). The first plant will be put into commission in the end of 2004 to start the processing of poisonous substances in 2005.
The object in Gorny is an experimental one. The tested technologies will be later used at other plants, with Shchuchye being the most important. The plant will be put into commission by the end of 2005 and the processing will begin three years later. The point is that the elimination of poisonous substances from Kizner (Udmurtia) will be carried out in Shchuchye. Thus, this plant will process up to 95% of Russia's chemical arsenal. The plant in Kombarka will be put into commission by the end of this year, as well, and the elimination of chemical weapons will start a year later.
After the ratification of the UN Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons in 1997 Russia intended to build seven eliminating plants, however, later it was decided to reduce their number for economy purposes and to boost the disarmament program.
1. Congress approves MOX funding, but no money for new national lab
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A congressional spending bill recently approved and awaiting President Bush's signature includes $300 million for a facility that would convert weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear power plants.
But funds for the newly designated Savannah River National Laboratory were not restored in the final spending bill.
Construction of the mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel facility at the Savannah River Site has been delayed. It was expected to begin last spring.
According to the United States and Russian agreement to get rid of 68 metric tons of plutonium, the programs must run parallel and DOE officials have said there have been delays in Russia, which wants the United States to assume plant liability in their country.
Members of Congress wrote in the bill they were disappointed a solution for liability was not negotiated. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., expressed optimism in a statement.
"The Bush administration understands how important it is we get this project moving so we can take this material off the market and terrorists cannot get their hands on it," he said.
The site also will receive about $1.15 billion for cleanup and operations, including about $162 million to accelerate the cleanup, removal and storage of about 37 million gallons of high-level waste in 49 underground tanks.
A decision on the modern pit facility, a $4 billion plant that would make plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons, will not be made until fiscal year 2005.
1. CIA warns 'dirty bomb' within Al-Qaeda's capabilities
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The Al-Qaeda terror network is fully capable of building a radioactive "dirty bomb" targeting the United States and other Western nations and "has crude procedures" for producing chemical weapons, the CIA warned Tuesday.
In an annual report to Congress on proliferation threats, the US Central Intelligence Agency also repeated its insistence that Iran was pursuing "a clandestine nuclear weapons program."
But it remained silent about charges, made earlier this month by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who accused Iran of seeking to adapt its missiles to carry nuclear warheads.
Instead, the agency used its strongest terms to alert lawmakers to the threat of terrorist organizations using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials to harm the United States and its allies, saying the danger of such an attack "remained high."
"One of our highest concerns is Al-Qaeda's stated readiness to attempt unconventional attacks against us," the report said.
The CIA said analysis of an Al-Qaeda document recovered in Afghanistan in the summer of 2002 "indicates the group has crude procedures for making mustard agent, sarin, and VX."
The group founded and led by Osama bin Laden, the admitted mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, is also keenly interested in radiological dispersal devices, or "dirty bombs," the spy agency warned.
It added that construction of such a device "is well within its capabilities as radiological materials are relatively easy to acquire from industrial or medical sources."
Documents recovered by US forces in Afghanistan show that bin Laden and his associates were engaged in what US intelligence officials described as "rudimentary nuclear research."
But the CIA cautions that the true extent of Al-Qaeda's nuclear program "is unclear," suggesting it could be more advanced than originally thought.
Outside experts, such as Pakistani nuclear engineer Bashir al-Din Mahmood, may have provided assistance to Al-Qaeda's nuclear program, according to the report.
Bashir reportedly met with bin Laden and discussed nuclear weapons with him, the CIA asserted.
Iran "vigorously" pursued programs to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons during the latter part of 2003 and was working to improve delivery systems, a CIA report said on Tuesday.
Al Qaeda was also engaged in rudimentary nuclear research, the CIA said, and the network's stated willingness to launch an unconventional attack was a major concern.
The unclassified semi-annual report to Congress on the acquisition of technology relating to weapons of mass destruction from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2003, was posted on the intelligence agency's Web site www.cia.gov.
"Iran's nuclear program received significant assistance in the past from the proliferation network headed by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan," the CIA report said.
Khan's network provided Iran with designs for Pakistan's older centrifuges and for more advanced and efficient models, and components, the report said.
Iran was trying to improve delivery systems and sought foreign materials, training and equipment from Russia, China, North Korea (news - web sites), and Europe, it said.
Last week Iran denied allegations by an exiled opposition group that it obtained weapons-grade uranium and a nuclear bomb design from Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb.
The United States believes Iran has been pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program and has tried to convince the international community of those concerns.
TERRORISM THREAT HIGH
"One of our highest concerns is al Qaeda's stated readiness to attempt unconventional attacks against us," the report said. Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) and other leaders have said it was al Qaeda's religious duty to acquire nuclear weapons, the CIA said.
Documents recovered in Afghanistan (news - web sites) showed that al Qaeda "was engaged in rudimentary nuclear research, although the extent of its indigenous program is unclear," it said.
Pakistani nuclear engineer Bashir al-Din Mahmood, who reportedly met with bin Laden, "may have provided some assistance to al Qaeda's program," the report said.
"In addition, we are alert to the very real possibility that al Qaeda or other terrorist groups might also try to launch conventional attacks against the chemical or nuclear industrial infrastructure of the United States to cause panic and economic disruption," the CIA report said.
Several groups associated with al Qaeda planned attacks in Europe with easily produced chemicals and toxins best suited to assassination and small-scale scenarios, the CIA said.
Documents recovered in Afghanistan show al Qaeda has crude procedures for making mustard agent, sarin, and VX nerve agent, and had conducted research on biological agents. "We believe al Qaeda's BW (biological warfare) program is primarily focused on anthrax for mass casualty attacks," the report said.
The CIA report also said that information from 2003 detailed the construction of a "terrorist cyanide-based chemical weapon" that could be made with easily available items and required little training to assemble and deploy.
"Such a device could produce a lethal concentration of poisonous gases in an enclosed area," the CIA said.
The proliferation behavior of Chinese companies remained of "great concern" but China had taken some positive steps, the report said. In September 2003, China stopped a shipment of chemicals at the China-North Korea border that could have been used in North Korea's nuclear program, the report said.
North Korea had approached Western European entities for assistance with its uranium enrichment program, and "a shipment of aluminum tubing -- enough for 4,000 centrifuge tubes -- was halted by German authorities," the report said.
1. MOSCOW, CARACAS TO FIGHT AGAINST WMD PROLIFERATION AND TERRORISM
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Russia and Venezuela come out against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
"Russia and Venezuela will boost the development of multilateral approaches to the achievement of practical results in the spheres of disarmament and non-proliferation," reads the joint statement issued by Russian and Venezuelan Presidents Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez following the Friday talks in the Kremlin.
"Our countries confirm that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction threatens peace and international security," the document says.
"In this connection we are resolute to develop cooperation within the UN framework, in particular, on the prevention of WMD proliferation, and point out the necessity of total implementation of resolution 1540 of the UN Security Council," the statement reads. This resolution is aimed against the possession of weapons of mass destruction by non-governmental structures, above all, terrorists.
Russia and Venezuela confirm the importance of strict and total implementation of the basic international agreement in the spheres of disarmament and non-proliferation, in particular, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction. Moreover, the sides come out for coming into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The above-mentioned documents are the basic instruments of international non-proliferation regimes.
"Russia and Venezuela assign priority to the success of the 2005 conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," the statement reads.
"We come out for further multilateral talks aimed at the formation of a control mechanism in order to promote the Convention on the Prohibition of Bacteriological Weapons," the joint statement emphasizes.
Russia and Venezuela agreed to boost joint fight against terrorism, illegal drug and arms trafficking and money laundering.
"Proceeding from the necessity to elaborate a global strategy against new challenges and threats within the UN framework, we agreed to boost our cooperation at international forums against terrorism and transnational organized crime including illegal drug and arms trafficking, corruption, money laundering and slave trade," reads the statement following the talks of the Russian and Venezuelan leaders.
1. Putin welcomes Iranï¿½s decision to abandon full nuclear cycle
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Russian President Vladimir Putin told a news conference on the results of the 14th Russia-EU summit on Thursday that Moscow welcomed Iranï¿½s intention to stop the development of its own full nuclear fuel cycle technologies and was ready to continue cooperation with Teheran in the peaceful use of the atom in case the final agreements are reached.
ï¿½We welcome Iranï¿½s statement on abandoning the full nuclear cycle technology. The remarks of Iranian representatives on this subject need to be additionally studied,ï¿½ Putin emphasized.
ï¿½I hope that all these problems will be closed at an expert level,ï¿½ President Putin went on to say.
ï¿½Anyway, we think that great progress has been made to close the Iranian nuclear dossier. We are holding bilateral talks with Iran, helping it to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and intend to continue this cooperation if final agreements are reached,ï¿½ Putin stressed.
Commenting on the results of Ukraineï¿½s presidential elections, President Putin said that he didnï¿½t think that Russia had taken a passive stance on the post-election situation in Ukraine compared to other countries, especially Western states.
ï¿½I donï¿½t think that we, Russia, have taken a passive stance. Neither do I think that any foreign country should recognize or not recognize the results of presidential elections in Ukraine. Itï¿½s up to the Ukrainian people. These elections donï¿½t need any outside recognition,ï¿½ Putin told a Russian reporter.
ï¿½Everybody understands that Ukraine is in the heart of Europe and will build normal friendly relations with all the neighbours,ï¿½ Putin added.
ï¿½At the beginning of the election race in Ukraine I said that we are ready to work with any president whom the Ukrainian people are going to elect. I telephoned Yanukovich and congratulated him after 90% of the votes were counted and the Central Electoral Commission announced the first results.
ï¿½Naturally, we donï¿½t think that we have the right to meddle in the election process and impose our opinion on the Ukrainian people,ï¿½ Putin stressed.
The Russian president said in conclusion that he agreed with EU Foreign Policy and Security Chief Javier Solana that the unity of the Ukrainian state should be preserved.
2. RUSSIA WELCOMES IRAN'S SUSPENSION OF URANIUM ENRICHMENT PROJECT
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Russia has gained a political trump card: as of yesterday, Iran stopped all uranium enrichment projects. "This is a breakthrough," a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official told Vremya Novostei. Moscow hopes that this will settle a painful problem in Russia-U.S. and Russia-Israel relations. The U.S. and Israel are convinced that Iran wants to create nuclear weapons and have been persistently trying to convince Russia to abandon economically beneficial cooperation with Tehran, in particular the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power station.
"Moscow has been prodding Tehran toward a moratorium," the Russian diplomat said. The agreement reached in Paris removed political obstacles to the delivery of Russian nuclear fuel to Bushehr. An accord to this effect may be signed during the December visit of Alexander Rumyantsev, head of the Federal Nuclear Agency, to Iran. "The contract has been coordinated and only some financial and technical issues remain," Mr. Hossein Musavian, head of the foreign policy committee on Iran's Supreme National Security Council and a key player at the talks in Paris, said yesterday.
"The uranium enrichment projects were frozen on November 22 and [the moratorium] will last throughout the talks with the European states," he said when commenting on how long the moratorium would last. The talks are to continue until March 15, 2005. "If Europe fails to honor its commitments, Iran will not consider itself bound by the Paris agreements," Mr. Musavian stressed. "We are not afraid of bombing raids or the transfer of Iran's nuclear file to the UN Security Council."
According to the Russian diplomat, Washington planned to convince the IAEA Board of Governors to prepare the Iranian "nuclear file" for transfer to the UN Security Council, with the possibility of sanctions if Tehran violated its commitments to the EU Troika (France, Germany and Britain).
3. U.S. team visits Tajikistan over "radiological security"
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A U.S. Energy Department delegation has visited Tajikistan "to tour a completed two-year project designed to enhance radiological security at the country's nuclear waste repository" and has signed contracts to begin two new radiological security projects, the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe said on Friday.
The delegation "arrived in Tajikistan on November 14 for a four-day visit to collaborate with Tajik colleagues from the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Office at the Academy of Sciences," the embassy said in a website release.
"Their goal: to improve radiological security. This program - one component of the cooperative effort between the Government of Tajikistan and the United States Department of Energy - is part of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative recently announced by U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. The initiative's aim is to prevent terrorists from acquiring or using nuclear and radiological materials," the release said.
The two new projects would "supplement previous security initiatives in the Dushanbe area," it said.
1. Moscow approves draft agreement on atomic energy cooperation with Egypt
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Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has signed a governmental resolution approving a draft intergovernmental agreement between Russia and Egypt on cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy, the Russian governmental press service said.
Russia and Egypt will cooperate in fundamental and applied research and development, design, construction, operation and modification of industrial and research nuclear reactors, desalters and accelerators.
1. Russia tests new anti-ballistic missile system: report
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Russia has successfully tested a modernized anti-ballistic missile system, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told President Vladimir Putin on Monday, according to the Interfax news agency.
Ivanov told Putin that his ministry would ``further perfect and modernize the anti-ballistic missile system,'' the news agency reported.
He said the missile had passed its test on Monday morning at the Sary-Shagaz testing range in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.
Ivanov said earlier that Russia would test-fire a mobile version of the new Topol-M missile before the year's end and would commission it next year.
Topol-Ms have a range of about 6,000 miles (9,650 kilometers) and reportedly can manoeuvre in ways that are difficult to detect. The missile, which can intercept and destroy other missiles, has been deployed in Silos since 1998.
Russia reacted calmly when Washington withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 to develop a nationwide missile shield. But Moscow has since complained about Washington's plans to build new low-yield nuclear weapons.
2. The Russian nuclear fleet might disappear in 10 years
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According to the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the Russian navy can hardly take part in the international actions of humanitarian and military character. This was stated at the external meeting of the Russian Federation Council committee on defence and security in Murmansk region in the end of October. The representatives of the navy commanders and navy shipyards also took part in the meeting. The participants complained about scarce financing of the arms state program for 2001-2010.
They also stated that the quantity of the submarines equipped with nuclear missiles reduced dramatically. Only Typhoon submarines and 7-8 Delta-III and Delta-IV remain in service. But, according to the experts from the Federation Council, they will be taken out of service and decommissioned during next 10 years. Despite the plans to launch production of the fourth-generation submarines of Yury Dolgoruky type with Bulava-30 missile system, the current construction of the multipurpose nuclear submarines of Akula class and project 677 submarines is put on hold.
The state of the Russian surface ships is also bad. At present only five cruisers are in service. Some experts from the Defence Ministry and the Navy Headquarters believe the time for such big ships is over. The small destroyers should substitute the cruisers. The Russian navy, however, has not more than 10 destroyers available. Moreover, multipurpose ship Stereguschy was laid down in St Petersburg in 2001, and Soobrazitelny ï¿½ in 2003. The navy is supposed to receive the first ship in 2005. The other destroyers can enter service depending on the state financing of the shipbuilding program.
According to the expertsï¿½ estimations, the Russian navy receives only 14% from the total budget of the Defence Ministry, what does not allow the navy to develop its shipbuilding programs and even to support the existing ships. Due the money shortages, missile cruisers Admiral Nakhimov and Admiral Lazarev are in sad plight. The same reason can lead to the situation in 2010 when 100% of the support vessels will not follow the safety requirements of the Russian Ship Register. The tankers, dry-cargos, tug boats etc. supporting the battle ships have from 2 to 3 lifetime extensions. Some of the are dangerous at sea: the navy single-hull tankers are not allowed to enter international ports and straits. The support fleet needs also significant investments otherwise the Russian battle ships will lose the supplies in the world oceans, reports Novaya Gazeta.
Today the Russian navy is based on enthusiasm and the previous experience of the navy officers. The navy lacks education centres for the mariners. Low educated conscripts are incapable to serve complicated modern equipment. The Russian navy has only 24% of the contract seamen and sergeants due to the poor wages and severe living conditions. The participants of the meeting concluded that if the navy programs not to be fully financed then the Russian navy would never be able to defend the interests of Russia in the World Ocean, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.
Russia's bold plans to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons is a move seemingly designed to send a message to the international community.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that Russia would develop a new breed of nuclear weapons that other nuclear powers do not yet have and are unlikely to develop. "We will continue to persist in consistently building up the armed forces, in general, including its nuclear component, and new nuclear missile-systems technologies that other nuclear powers do not and will not possess," Putin told a meeting of Russian generals in Moscow earlier this month. "I want all to have an understanding of this," Putin added.
The new nukes announcement was seen as a response to Washington's own missile defense efforts. Russia has long argued it had the capability to defeat the US's antimissile defense program due to the size of its ballistic missile arsenal. After President George W Bush pulled out of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 to pursue a new anti-missile defense program, Russia announced it no longer felt bound by previous agreements that prohibited missiles with multiple warheads. Russia has looked at equipping its new Topol missile with multiple warheads, an option that would reduce the weapon's vulnerability to the US missile defense system, which is designed to attack only one warhead at a time.
It has been also understood that Russia's promised "new nuclear missile-systems technologies" refer to the renovated RS-12M Topol-M, which the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nicknamed "SS-27" and was first tested in 1994. The Topol-M can be fired from silos or from mobile launchers. It is 75 feet long and has a range of 6,900 miles. The country now has some 40 Topol-M missile systems, with a further five to be added next year.
In its perceived drive to defeat the US antimissile defense program, Russia has also indicated plans to put dozens of previously stored multi-warhead SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles on combat duty. Putin previously stated that Russia has a "significant amount" of SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles that had been stored without fuel that had never previously been deployed - and thus not part of disarmament negotiations. Putin described the SS-19s as "the most powerful missiles in the world with unparalleled capability to overcome any anti-missile defense".
Russians believe that the SS-19 could function for up to 25 more years and gradually replace decommissioned missiles. The fourth generation UR-100N UTTH, also known as the SS-19 Stiletto, is a two-stage, storable liquid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The SS-19 can carry six warheads with a yield of up to one mega-ton each.
When the START-1 treaty was signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1991 - implemented to reduce and limit strategic offensive arms - the Soviet Union had a total of 300 SS-19 missiles stationed in Russia and Ukraine. After the Soviet demise, Ukraine claimed the missiles based on its territory, while all of its 1,300 nuclear warheads were sent to Russia for destruction. According to the START-II treaty, Russia was to dismantle all ground-based ICBMs with multiple warheads. Under the treaty provisions, a total of 105 of the SS-19 missiles can be retained provided they are downloaded to carry only one warhead instead of six.
In May 2002, Putin and Bush signed the so-called Moscow Treaty that requires the two countries to cut the number of warheads on combat duty to between 1,700 and 2,200 a side. It allows both countries to store, rather than dismantle the warheads. It is the scrapping of the START-II strategic arms reduction treaty, however, that has allowed Russia to keep SS-19s on combat duty.
Russia now has three missile armies and 16 divisions that have a total of 735 ICBMs armed with 3,159 nuclear warheads, according to Russian media reports. In October 2003, Putin stated that Russia retains the right to deliver preemptive military strikes.
In February 2004, Russia said it successfully tested a new strategic supersonic system that would allow "deep maneuvering, both in altitude and course" of Russia's long-range missiles and avoid US defenses. Russian officials claimed that the prototype weapon proved it could maneuver so quickly as to make "any missile defense useless".
The technological breakthrough now being touted by Putin is believed to be the ability to have warheads detached from the main delivery missile during the final stage of its descent, then to continue the flight as cruise missiles. Such missiles would be able to evade any existing or planned missile defense shield. Russian military officials claim this new technology was successfully tested in February.
Meanwhile, in September 2004, Russia test-launched Bulava, a newly-developed submarine-mounted intercontinental ballistic missile. Russia is expected to test-fire a mobile version of its Topol-M ballistic missile this year and production of the new weapon could be commissioned in 2005.
Putin's pledges of new nukes come as the latest in a series of Russian warnings that the development of the American missile defense program will not go unchallenged. Moreover, Putin's comments came the same week the Pentagon announced that the first six interceptors had been installed at Fort Greely, Alaska - 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks. The US missile defense system is scheduled to be operational by the end of December. The system consists of six rocket interceptors installed in silos in Fort Greely, with 10 more interceptors to be installed in the future. Four more will be based at Vandenburg Air Force Base in central California.
The response from Washington of Russia's new technology was that Russia is entitled to develop new weapons and this does not violate existing treaties. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush and Putin had discussed the issue previously. Asked about Putin's comments, McClellan said: "We are very well aware of their long-standing modernization efforts for their military."
Meanwhile, Russia has so far responded coolly to the deployment of the US missile shield following the announcement that the missile defense system could become operational in Alaska by the end of 2004. Last October, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that the new missile defense systems in Alaska posed no threat to Russian security.
The US defense system is designed to deploy a field of interceptors in Alaska and California that would fly into space to meet and destroy a missile. US officials have long acknowledged that the system would not defend against Russian or Chinese technology, but against countries like Iran or North Korea, which are developing long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction that could be carried by missiles.
There have been warnings stateside that the US missile defense efforts could unleash an arms race with other countries, and that not only Russia, but also China could build up its long-range nuclear forces to face future US ballistic missile defense systems. The Pentagon in its annual assessment of China's military power echoes the view that Beijing considers missile defense a direct threat. The US Defense Department's report last May said Beijing believes that US missile defenses "will challenge the credibility of China's nuclear deterrent and eventually be extended to protect Taiwan".
Russia and China are indeed concerned that their nuclear deterrent would be greatly diminished by a US missile defense system. US officials have responded that missile defenses are only designed to counter missiles launched by Iran or North Korea.
Moscow's new nuke pledges are also understood to be Moscow's way of cementing its position in a variety of international disputes: from a perennial territorial feud with Japan to rapidly emerging disagreements with the West over the future of Ukraine.
However, claims of Russian missiles with an unparalleled capability to overcome any anti-missile defense system could spark some concerns elsewhere as well. For instance, Russia has sold China S-300PMU long-range air-defense missile systems, promoted by Moscow for their reported anti-missile defense capabilities. Hence for Beijing, the Russian announcement of new weapons, capable to make "any missile defense useless", is unlikely to sound reassuring.
It is hardly a coincidence that this week China's official Xinhua news agency stressed the Russian foreign ministry's clarification that plans for a new generation of nuclear weapons will not threaten any particular country and that Russia is not considering enlarging its nuclear arsenal.
Moscow, too, moved to play down its dramatic announcement. Russia's new nuclear missile system is purely defensive and part of the country's program to upgrade its military, Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov reiterated. When asked why Russia was trying to improve its nuclear capabilities at a time when North Korea and Iran came under fire over their nuclear ambitions, Fedotov reportedly argued that "it was necessary to improve missile systems in order to avoid any accidents".
Incidentally, last year Russian media speculated that Moscow's best response to a possible nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula would be a preemptive missile strike against North Korean nuclear launch facilities, carried out by the Russian Pacific Fleet with its cruise missiles. Hence, Russia's new weapons announcement could be addressed to Pyongyang as well.
1. Russia lacks raw material for Bulava missiles production
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Russian defence sector enterprises have lost more than 200 technologies, Yury Solomonov, director of the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering, told a news conference in Moscow on October 29. "More than 200 technologies are now lost. In manufacturing separate components of missiles, raw materials are used that are not produced in Russia," he said.
Mr. Solomonov emphasised that Russia is still facing the danger of losing some other technologies. Thus, according to him, Russia has only about 100 kilograms of carbon textile left for the manufacture of missiles. They will suffice to make only half of one rocket element, of which there are around ten, Alexander Tomakov, press secretary of the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering, explained to RIA Novosti.
"Over the past three years, we have been working on the brink of a collapse," Mr. Solomonov said. He said that unless measures are taken in the next two months, the state order for the production of Topol-M and Bulava missiles might be scuttled. "In 2004, serial work on the Topol-M was twice interrupted. It was the last warning," Mr. Solomonov emphasised.
He also pointed out that there is practically no equipment left to produce raw materials used in the making of missiles. He explained that the only installation for manufacturing PAN fiber remains at the Saratovorgsintez enterprise. Moreover, it was built in the 60s and has been out of service for more than 10 years. "All the rest is sold out," Mr. Solomonov said. He said that the situation with organic fiber, which is used in the manufacture of power units, is the same, reported RIA-Novosti.
The United States has spent millions to protect nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union, buying alarm, security and monitoring systems, but a new University of Georgia study says it's not enough.
The report says authorities should pay more attention to Russian guards, technicians and managers who work in an environment rife with alcoholism, bribery and inefficiency, a culture that could make it easier for terrorists to obtain materials they need to assemble a "dirty bomb" or nuclear weapon.
"If a knowledgeable, adequately motivated workforce is the key to nuclear security," the report says, "then Russia clearly has a long way to go."
UGA's Center for International Trade and Security is to present its report in Washington on Dec. 3. NATO and the Nuclear Threat Initiative, co-chaired by Ted Turner and former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, helped pay for the study, which comes amid increasing concern about terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons.
Last month, in one of the presidential debates, both major candidates cited terrorists with nuclear weapons as the gravest threat to U.S. security. The bipartisan commission that investigated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, recommended steps to thwart terrorists who seek to obtain nuclear weapons.
The UGA report says Russia's transformation from authoritarianism to an emerging and more open democracy has spawned potentially dangerous changes. Some cities where scientists conduct research with nuclear materials now show up on maps that anyone can buy; they were not listed under Communist rule.
Also, a weak economy means some guards went months without pay at weapons research-and-development sites, making them susceptible to bribery. The report mentions increasing rates of alcohol and drug abuse and suggests more employee screening.
Editor James Holmes cited reports that some guards turn off security systems in frustration over false alarms. He talked about managers turning off the power to cut the electric bill, disabling the security system in the process.
He said U.S. efforts to safeguard vulnerable nuclear materials have "overlooked the human factor" in the former Soviet Union.
"We're trying to transform the culture," he said, "but ultimately it's up to the Russians."
Robert Einhorn, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said economic conditions in Russia have improved lately but that danger remains.
"The study is right in highlighting the so-called 'people problem,' " he said. "The weak link may well be the people who are charged with protecting nuclear materials."
Laura Holgate, the Nuclear Threat Initiative's vice president for programs in the former Soviet Union, said the U.S. has paid for lie detector tests, drug testing equipment, psychiatric screening and background checks at Russian military installations, where soldiers guard nuclear weapons.
At nonmilitary installations, however, such as research and testing sites, such screening procedures have not been as common. She said the UGA report will go to senior U.S. policy-makers and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
It will be translated into Russian and distributed widely amid people in that country who are in positions to effect change.
"They're not taking this issue seriously enough," she said.
The Department of Defense notified Congress Monday of the fielding plan for 11 new Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams (WMD-CSTs). Monday's action to establish these 11 teams is a final step toward fulfilling the request of Congress that every state and territory have a WMD-CST.
The eleven teams that will be funded in the Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2005 are the District of Columbia, Delaware, Guam, Montana, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, and Wyoming.
Congress authorized the first WMD-CSTs in the Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 1999. Today, there are 32 certified teams stationed throughout the United States and 12 additional teams working toward certification. The fielding and certification of these final 11 teams will bring the total number of WMD-CSTs to 55.
WMD-CSTs are able to deploy rapidly to assist local first responders in determining the nature of an attack, provide medical and technical advice, and pave the way for identification and arrival of follow-on state and federal response assets.
Each team consists of 22 highly skilled, full-time members of the Army and Air National Guard who are federally resourced, trained, and evaluated, but fall under the command and control of their respective governors. The initiative is part of the department's overall effort to support local, state, and federal civil authorities in the event of an incident involving weapons of mass destruction in the United States.
President Bill Clinton chartered the first 10 Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams in 1998. The joint teams are spread around the country to react to suspected nuclear, biological, or chemical incidents within their assigned Federal Emergency Management Agency regions.
Their mission is to identify substances, assess consequences, and advise the civilian first responders on appropriate measures. They also facilitate requests for additional federal and state assets if necessary. When on a mission, the team has the capability to maintain secure communications with the National Guard Bureau, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and state National Guard headquarters
According to an article in the American Forces Press Service, the Defense Department stands ready to assist authorities at the federal, state, and local levels in the event of another terrorist attack on the homeland, said Peter F. Vera, a senior defense official. He was speaking to members of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense "is responsible for DoD's support to civil authorities for domestic incident management," such as during attacks on the homeland.
The Defense Department is "a full partner" in the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, Verga said. The TTIC, he noted, is "a multi-agency joint venture" created in May 2003. It "integrates terrorist-threat related information, minimizing any seams between analysis of terrorism intelligence collected overseas and inside the United States, to form a comprehensive threat picture."
Each day, Verga continued, TTIC "coordinates terrorist threat assessments with partner agencies," including DoD, Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and State Department.
In a terrorist attack on America, NORTHCOM -- which defends land, air, and sea approaches to the United States -- would also provide support to U.S. civil authorities, Verga noted.
This, he explained, would include "military support to civilian law enforcement agencies, military assistance for civil disturbances, and incident management operations in response" to an attack using weapons of mass destruction.
The American Forces Press Services reports that using sophisticated equipment and a mobile analytical laboratory, team members can take solid, liquid, or air samples and test them for chemical or biological substances down to parts per billion. They can also do rapid DNA sampling and chemical analysis to identify potential toxic substances.
Team members explained they don't routinely set up a decontamination site on a precautionary mission, but they could set up a decon line quickly if they needed one.
However, the team's acting commander explained, speed can hurt when you're dealing with hazardous materials.
"You need to be deliberate and methodical. There's no room for error," Army National Guard Maj. Kaarlo Hietala said. "That's hard for military and first responders. We usually want to rush in and do something."
Missions like this help maintain relationships the team members have built with local civilian emergency management organizations. Hietala said he and his team became close to several members of the New York City Police Department Emergency Services Unit during a New York state fire academy hazardous materials class before the team was certified. That relationship allowed the team to be more effective in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Hazardous material control is in high-demand since September 11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks through the mail, Hietala said, but many emergency services agencies have competing priorities.
"It's hard for any agency to focus on hazmat alone," he said. "For us, it's our full-time job. I think that's what really separates us."
Army Major David Seitz said, "These are the highest caliber soldiers and airmen I've ever worked around, They're dedicated and they take this job very seriously. If people on this team know there's a task that needs to be done, they go straight at it. They're proud of the mission that might be imposed upon us, depending upon what happens in the world."
1. U.S. and Belgian Governments Launch Initiative to Detect Illicit Trafficking of Nuclear Material
National Nuclear Security Administration
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The United States and Belgium today announced an effort to cooperate in the war on terrorism by signing an agreement to install radiation detection equipment at the Port of Antwerp, one of Belgium's busiest seaports. U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Tom Korogolos joined Belgium's Minister of Finance Didier Reynders at the signing ceremony. The equipment will be used to detect hidden shipments of nuclear and other radioactive material.
The agreement is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Megaports Initiative which is a program aimed at thwarting illicit shipments of nuclear and other radioactive material.
In a statement on behalf of the NNSA made at the signing ceremony, Ambassador Korologos asserted that "implementation of the Megaports Initiative in Belgium will not only strengthen security at one of the largest seaports in the world, but it will also help to put a stop to terrorist attempts to use the global maritime industry for malicious purposes."
Under the Megaports Initiative, NNSA works with foreign partners to equip major seaports with radiation detection equipment and provides relevant training to deter, detect, and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials.
"The United States and Belgium both recognize the threat posed by the illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials through the global maritime shipping network," said NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks. "The United States is gratified to have a close partnership with Belgium in this important initiative. Our cooperation will further international nonproliferation and anti-terrorist efforts."
The specialized radiation detection technology was developed by NNSA laboratories as part of overall U.S. government efforts to improve the security of the international maritime trading system and to stem nuclear proliferation.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear energy. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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